Our family is no stranger to medical issues. In 2010, my first child, Jack, was born early at 28 weeks due to a life-threatening complication of pregnancy called preeclampsia. Unfortunately, Jack had to be delivered early to save my life. He spent 112 days in the NICU, where our world became focused on the survival of our 2-pound little boy. He came home with an NG tube (for feeding) and on oxygen. Since his early arrival, you could say our family has been on high-alert after the trauma of preeclampsia and prematurity. The years after Jack’s arrival were spent keeping him healthy and out of the hospital, amidst many doctors appointments, medications, and therapies. When Jack was three, we surprisingly became pregnant with his little sister, Harper. After Harper was born, we adjusted to life with two kiddos and I finally felt like I could start taking care of my own health. When Harper was about 9 months old, I saw my NP and she felt a nodule on my thyroid. Not wanting to spend money on an ultrasound or other procedures, I ignored her advice and waited another year before getting an ultrasound (2015). That showed a suspicious nodule that was eventually biopsied in June 2016. At that point, it was considered indeterminate and a right thyroid lobectomy was performed. Unfortunately, the nodule was positive for follicular thyroid cancer and I had the remaining thyroid removed in October 2016 (which had no cancer). I then went through the Radioactive Iodine (RAI) treatment, along with a whole-body scan. At this point, my levels look good and I’m getting close to the 1-year mark for a repeat RAI dose to check for any remaining thyroid cells. Life without a thyroid isn’t as easy as one would think. It controls so many things, such as metabolism, breathing, heart rate, weight, nervous system…such a small organ that is vital for health. It was definitely an adjustment to depend on thyroid medication this past year. However, I finally started feeling more “normal” this past spring when I felt a mass in my right breast. Looking back, I know I had felt this lump previously, but ignored it due to all the other things going on in our life. However, this time, it was so obvious that I needed to see a doctor and I shouldn’t wait like I had in the past. I was sent to a local breast surgeon who performed a biopsy (after a diagnostic mammo and ultrasound) that ended up positive for Invasive Ductal Carcinoma, stage 1, ER+/PR+/Her2-. The plan was to do a lumpectomy, radiation, and then hormone suppression. However, I headed to Johns Hopkins for a second opinion and am so glad I did. If there is one thing I have learned, it’s that the plan for treatment can change at any time. The chief breast surgeon there suggested that I should have a breast MRI before any surgery. The MRI led to another MRI with biopsy of 2 separate, new masses. One positive, one benign. On September 1, 2017, I had a lumpectomy and sentinel node biopsy. The lumpectomy was successful with clean margins, but two of the three nodes removed were positive for cancer. My diagnosis has changed to stage 2, grade 3. At the moment, I am seeing doctors at Hopkins and here in Lancaster at Ann B. Barshinger Cancer Institute. The “plan” is to get pre-chemo appointments and scans in before I see the radiation oncologist at Hopkins who might still suggest more node surgery. Just this week I will have PET scan (denied approval by insurance), port consult with interventional radiology, anti-cancer medication education and an echocardiogram…all in hopes that I can start chemo as soon as possible to kill any remaining cancer cells.

Through all the past seven years, my family has definitely managed to live a life of love and laughter. Lots of family trips and time together, not allowing cancer or other medical issues to rule our life. My biggest hope is for our life to continue that way for many, many years. Harper is now 3 and just started preschool. Jack is 7 and in 1st grade. He wants to be a police officer and then President of the United States. Jack’s early struggle to survive and thrive despite prematurity gives me all the inspiration I need to do the same in my own journey.